As I prepare for my sermons each week I listen mainly to hymns. There is a subtle intensity to them that I hope transfers into my teaching at Compass Point on Sunday mornings. Their words challenge…push and pull….cause a deepening of my thought process. Hymns for me are like protein for an athlete…that extra edge for the endurance.
To say that I’m bored with modern praise and worship music is an understatement. It all sounds so…simple…so easy…so repetitive. The words are simple…the structures are simple…the instrumentation is…well…simple. The same words are sung over and over and over and over…to infinity.
I truly believe that this is one area where the Church’s obsession with chasing culture has caused us to throw the baby out with the bath water. As a pastor of young families and 20-something art freaks I understand that the world is a different place today…there seems to rapant ADD and warped speed living. The general mantra of life today is “give it to me now the way I want it”. But following Christ doesn’t work that way…disipleship takes time and stretching. I’m afraid in our effort to reach society we have dumbed down many things in church…including the music. Instead of raising the bar for people to live life above this world…we have brought it all down to a level that reaks of mediocrity.
Im not talking about choir robes and pipe organs (though a great Hammond B3 sound can add punch like nobody’s business…just ask The Black Crows). Quite a few of the greatest hymns of yesterday were put to the music of beer hall songs. I’m for “rocking the house”…but I just think we can give the world a little more to chew on lyrically. I understand people with no church memory freak when you sing songs about getting washed in blood. As a fairly creative pastor a hymn like “Are You Washed In The Blood?” is a great attention-getter and set up for me to discuss that the Lamb is Jesus Christ and what it means to be “washed in His blood”.
A couple of weeks ago our worship leader Jonathan Williams “introduced” a “new” song at Compass Point…it was the old hymn “Invisible Immortal”. He added a central chorus that we sang between the original verses and the music would melt your face off. Our people loved it…all of our people. Musically it was relevant to our younger attenders…but lyrically our older folks were digging the depth. There was meat without making the music sound like an Air Supply cover band. The song was over 4 minutes long because we sang all of the verses. Nobody left…nobody got bored…nobody complained. In fact they thought Jonathan wrote the whole song and were saying how cool the lyrics were. By the way…the folks dishing out compliments were young 20-somethings with little church experience in their past.
So if it is possible to rock…have lyrical depth…and sing every stanza in a church setting…then my question is…why can’t we have hymns?